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The 2014 Texas Republican Platform

Republican ElephantThe 2014 Texas Republican Party Platform has been approved. I've made a habit out of reviewing several of their previous platforms (2008, 2010, and 2012), so I figured I'd take a look at this one, as well.

For anyone interested in reading it, the platform can be found at the following link:
Republican Party of Texas Platform 2014

It's amazing just how bad the platform is. It seems like the type of ranting you'd hear from your crazy uncle at family reunions, not the official platform of what's supposed to be a respected political party. It's not just a few isolated statements here and there taken out of context, but statements throughout the entire platform. When I was skimming through a draft copy of the platform, I'd jump a few pages at a time at random and see what that section had to say, and every time but one, there was at least one outrageous plank. The lone exception in my random jumping was when I landed at the end of page 39:

The only part of the 2014 Texas Republican Platform I didn't disagree with

Yes - it's blank. About the only way for the Texas Republican Party to not say something outrageous is to just not say anything at all. Okay, that's not completely true. When they're extolling the virtues of mom, baseball, and apple pie, they mostly say things I agree with. It's when they get past the platitudes that the lunacy really comes forth.

To give a humorous introduction before I get into my own review, I'll recommend the Wait But Why entry, The Battle to Lose the Independent Vote, as a fairly accurate representation of how I feel about the current state of politics - Democrats win the sane vote by default, not because of any particular merit on their part, but simply because the Republican Party has become so crazy.

Since this year's platform is very similar to those from years past, I'm going to quote/paraphrase my impression from previous entries: This platform has simply reinforced what I already knew about the Republican Party - their mangling of history, the injection of religion into politics, their opposition to science, the suppression of free speech, their bigotry towards homosexuals, their isolationist views on international issues, their desire to impose their morality on everybody, their disregard for the checks and balances in the federal government with their desire to limit the judiciary's power, and, surprisingly, how much of the platform was based on utter nonsense (well - surprising the first time I read their platform, not so much anymore).

I've also tried to stick mostly with quoting planks I haven't addressed before, since you can read my old entries for my takes on them, but there are several planks so bad that they have to be called out every time they appear. But even with that limit, this entry got pretty long, because there are so many bad planks.

To make it easier to jump to the different topics, here's an index.

Weird Politics

These first two quotes have to be read together to fully appreciate the dissonance.

Full Repeal of the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution - Return the appointment of U.S. Senators by the State Legislatures.

Compare that to this.

Unelected, Appointed Bureaucrats and Agencies - We decry the appointment of unelected bureaucrats, and we urge Congress to use their constitutional authority to defund and abolish these positions and return authority to duly elected officials, accountable to the electorate. In the interim we hold Congress responsible for agency decisions. Executive decisions by agencies must be reviewed and approved by Congress taking effect.

So, appointed bureaucrats who aren't elected by the electorate are bad, but let's make Senators appointed bureaucrats who aren't elected by the electorate, which would be good. I also wonder how anything's supposed to get done by federal agencies if every bureaucrat has to be elected. Does that include park rangers?


We strongly urge the Texas Legislature ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states 10th Amendment Right.

There's already a system in place to challenge laws that you think are unconstitutional - take it to court. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of whether laws are constitutional or not. You don't just get to ignore the law because you don't like it.

Besides, this very position of nullification is unconstitutional itself. The Supremacy Clause makes it clear that federal laws are "the supreme law of the land", and states don't get to ignore them when they don't like them. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this position.


Due to abuse such as suffered by the Gibson Guitar Company, we condemn the over criminalization nature of the Lacey Act.

I hadn't really heard about this one before, so I looked it up. Here's a summary from Nashville Scene, Gibson Acknowledges Lacey Act Violations in Federal Settlement. A company, Gibson, knowingly violated a law against importing illegally harvested timber, got caught, and was fined. And somehow this is 'over criminalization'.


Guns

Under no circumstances shall the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Constitutional Amendments, be changed in any manner.

I think we all know which Amendment they're worried about there (i.e., read the article by former justice John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment).


America's founding fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment with clear intent - no level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms. Therefore, we strongly oppose all laws that infringe on the right to bear arms. We oppose the monitoring of gun ownership, the taxation and regulation of guns, ammunition, and gun magazines. We collectively urge the legislature to pass "constitutional carry" legislation, whereby law-abiding citizens that possess firearms can legally exercise their God-given right to carry that firearm as well. Until such time, we urge the state to re-introduce and pass legislation easing current restrictions on firearms such as open carry and campus carry. Stiff penalties shall be imposed for frivolous litigation against legitimate firearm manufacturers. All federal acts, laws, executive orders, and court orders which restrict or infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms shall be invalid in Texas, not be recognized by Texas, shall be specifically rejected by Texas, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Texas. We urge the Texas Legislature to enact legislation to protect law-abiding firearms owners from having their right to bear arms infringed by federal agencies due to such minor mental health diagnoses as non-severe PTS (post-traumatic stress), seeking counseling for minor depression or other minor mental health diagnoses.

Consider this passage from the Stevens article linked to above.

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a "well regulated Militia."

Stevens goes on to say that it's only in recent years, particularly the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case, where this interpretation has changed (and that vote was 5-4). Given the history of this issue and the extreme closeness of that decision (one justice changing their mind would have swayed it the other way), I don't think there's 'clear intent' that the amendment was always intended to protect an individual right to own guns, nor to keep all levels of government from regulating gun ownership.

Then, there's the language similar to an earlier plank I quoted, where they just want to ignore federal laws and court decisions that they don't like.

But perhaps most odd in the whole thing is calling it a "God-given right to carry that firearm".


These next three quotes are related.

We support the establishment and maintenance of a volunteer Constitutional State Militia with assistance from County Sheriffs.
We recognize that the original meaning of the word "militia" in the Constitution refers to an armed citizenry, not the formal paid professional military.
We recommend that the Texas State Guard Reserve Militia be activated on a quarterly basis, for purposes of organization and training. These musters should be of a voluntary nature, and be held for a minimum of two days each.

So, it sounds like they are trying to account for the militia language, but it's still lacking in historical context. I have a brief discussion on militias in my entry, Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?, including links to much more in depth articles. Basically, while some Founders did want militias for the military rather than a professional army, the War of 1812 revealed the shortcomings of that approach. The only modern first world nation with a citizen militia is Switzerland, and they have much more substantial training than voluntary musters lasting a couple days. The type of militia these Texas Republicans are proposing would be practically worthless in a military sense.


To wrap up this discussion of their gun planks, I'll just link to my own previous entries dealing with gun control, Thoughts on Gun Control, NRA President Unwittingly Supports Gun Ban, Thoughts on Gun Control - The Hitler Argument, Thoughts on Gun Control - New Studies on Effectiveness of Gun Control Laws, and finally one that I've already linked to, Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?.


UN / International Relations

These next two are very similar to each other.

The Republican Party of Texas should expose all United Nations Agenda 21 treaty policies and its supporting organizations, agreements and contracts. We oppose implementation of the UN Agenda 21 Program which was adopted at the Earth Summit Conference in 1992 purporting to promote a comprehensive program of sustainable development projects, nationally, regionally and locally.
We oppose implementation of the UN Agenda 21 treaty policies and its supporting organizations, agreements and contracts which were adopted at the Earth Summit Conference in 1992. We oppose the influence, promotion and implementation of all international nongovernmental organizations' programs and policies and the use of taxes to promote these programs.

It seems that Texas Republicans just have an ingrained distrust of environmentalism and international cooperation, because I can't really see anything wrong with trying to support 'sustainable development projects'.


We unequivocally oppose the United States Senate's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I mentioned this one two years ago, but it bears repeating. 194 other countries have already signed this treaty. The only UN member states that haven't signed it besides the U.S. are Somalia and South Sudan - not exactly countries you want to be grouped with on humanitarian issues. It should be a national embarrassment that the U.S. hasn't yet ratified this treaty.


A lawful "Declaration of War" is necessary for the United States to enter into armed conflict and we urge Congress to reclaim its Constitutional responsibility as implemented under the War Powers Act. Any breech of this power by the President is an impeachable offence.

I do agree with this sentiment and don't like that the president can send troops off to die without an official declaration of war, but honestly, this has been going on since the 1798 Quasi-War with the French. I know, just because it's always been this way doesn't mean it's right, but it is a long standing precedent.


We oppose foreign aid except in cases of national defense or catastrophic disasters, with Congressional approval.

Wow. I'm not even sure how to respond to that. They're advocating doing away with things like Fighting Malaria, Food Security, and Ending Extreme Poverty. That's just unconscionable.


I've included these next two before, but they bear repeating. It's such an isolationist approach to foreign policy, and unthinkable in a world that just keeps getting smaller.

We support United States withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank.
We support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of U.N. headquarters from United States soil.


This one is odd.

We support full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as an independent and sovereign nation. We urge Congress to work with the Taiwanese government to preserve and enhance the human rights of all people.

It's a delicate enough balance as it is, but it seems to be working. Why rock the boat and provoke the world's most populous nation? It's also interfering in another country's affairs. According to various public opinion polls in Taiwan, it seems that the majority of people there favor maintaining the status quo at least for now. Why would Texas Republicans presume to dictate what the Taiwanese should do in their own country?


This is another one I've included before, but really, really needs to be emphasized.

We believe that the United States and Israel share a special long-standing relationship based on shared values, a mutual commitment to a republican form of government, and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. Our foreign policy with Israel should reflect the right of sovereign nations to govern themselves and have self-determination. In our diplomatic dealings with Israel, we encourage the continuation of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but oppose pressuring Israel to compromise their sovereignty or security. Our policy is inspired by God's biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise. [emphasis mine]

They want to base foreign policy on Bible verses! It's insane.


Environment

We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests and private property use. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
We still support the elimination of the Department of Energy.

Do away with the EPA and DoE? While not quite as all out crazy as some of their other planks, that's still a very, very extreme position. Who do they propose take over the roles these agencies perform, in an efficient manner that doesn't involve a patchwork of 50 different agencies at the state level?


The first quote below came first in the platform, and I was dismayed enough by it. But then, I got to the second one - the most blatant climate change denial they've put in the platform out of the years I've been reading it.

While we all strive to be good stewards of the earth, "climate change" is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or "climate justice" initiatives.
We believe we are to be good stewards of our planet and thus manage the resources it provides. We believe that the changes in climate that we have observed are simply part of the ongoing natural planetary cycle; we reject the use of this natural process to promote more government regulation of the private economy. Furthermore we reject the idea of "climate justice" and the accompanying redistribution of wealth that comes with accepting it.

This is just unbelievable. Climate change is one of, if not the, biggest challenges facing the world today. What we do in the short term now will have far reaching consequences in the future. It's complete selfishness to not want to spend any money on addressing climate change now, passing the buck to future generations.


Government Restrictions - We support immediate removal of government barriers to free market solutions to production and distribution of energy including restrictions on:

  • Export of LNG and CNG worldwide
  • Drilling and production operations on public and private lands and waters
  • Modernization of existing and construction of new refineries
  • Electric power generation and distribution
  • Federal gas mileage standards (CAFÉ standards) and fuel blends

More of their naive reliance on the free market. Yes, the free market is good at optimizing many things, but it's not magic. It won't always produce the best outcomes for society without some type of regulation or intervention, and for some services, it's just plain not as good as public institutions (see my older entries, Free Markets, Government Intervention in Health Care, or Why I'm Not a Libertarian and Another Example of the Free Market Failing Society). Do they really think electric companies would be developing alternative energy quickly if not for regulation, or that cars would get the types of gas mileage they do now without the CAFE standards? (I know, I ask those questions as if the Texas Republicans care about the outcomes, but with their blatant climate change denial, I don't think they see any problems with the status quo on energy production.)


We support land drilling and production operations including hydraulic fracturing.

Of course they support fracking. It's almost like Texas Republicans will just support anything an environmentalist might oppose. I'm not opposed to fracking outright, but I think anecdotal data and small studies done so far indicate significant risks with the method. I'd really like for society to understand and weigh those risks before expanding fracking even more, and to see more transparency in the industry.


We oppose the implementation of any Cap and Trade (aka "Cap and Tax") system through legislation or regulation.

I'd ask what they'd rather see done to combat climate change, but their other planks make it clear that they don't want to do anything. (Interestingly, Cap and Trade was first championed by Republicans as a market based solution to emissions rather than just outright regulation, but that was before the Tea Party types pushed the party to its current extremism.)


We support the immediate approval and construction of the Keystone XL and other pipelines that will reduce our reliance on imported oil and natural gas from unstable or unfriendly countries.

I don't have too strong of an opinion over the Keystone pipeline (it's gotten far more attention that its potential impact merits), but of course you'd expect Texas Republicans to come out in favor of it.


We support the freedom to continue to use and manufacture incandescent light bulbs.

That's another one I'd mentioned before, but included again because I've written a blog entry that addresses this type of claim specifically, Email Debunking - Government Mandated CFL Bulbs (in case you were wondering, it's another nonsense claim).


We call for all transportation and fuel taxes collected to be used for road construction, improvement, and maintenance only. We resolve that tax revenue derived from gasoline taxes and all other taxes/fees on our vehicles (including vehicle sales tax) should only be used for highway construction, and not be diverted to any other use, including mass transit, rail, and bicycle paths.

Yeah, why use transportation taxes to fund transportation infrastructure? Are they really just so against anything that could be construed as environmentalism that they're against mass transit and rail systems?


Religion

This platform practically drips with religious references. It's not just a few sections specifically devoted to maintaining religious freedom or addressing separation of church and state, but an almost constant theme (see for example, the previously quoted planks on a "God-given right to carry that firearm", or using the Bible to justify foreign policy in relation to Israel). So, there were a lot of planks I could have included here, but I tried to make it just the ones most narrowly focused on religious issues. I have quoted several of these in years past, but they definitely deserve to be highlighted again.


We urge amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to allow a religious organization to address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status. We call for repeal of requirements that religious organizations send the government any personal information about their contributors.

First, that's asking for special treatment for religious organizations that other tax-exempt organizations don't get. Why should religious organizations get different treatment than an organization like Doctors Without Borders? Second, they're just asking for a situation where any charlatan can set up a scam church to funnel money or commit fraud, and hide behind 'religion' to avoid being found out.


The state should have no power over licensing or training of clergy. The State should withdraw all imposed regulations.

I'm not sure what type of regulations even exist right now. Personally, I became a minister in the Universal Life Church so that I could perform wedding ceremonies for close friends & family, and the county clerk office doesn't require any special paperwork when I sign marriage licenses, not even a letter of good standing from the church. I suspect that any type of licensing they're talking about has more to do with tax-exempt organizations, and not actually religion.


We oppose any restrictions by any government agency on individual taxpayer contributions to churches, faith-based charities and other non-profit organizations.

This is similar in theme to the previous two above. Do they not foresee the type of corruption this would create? Anyone can claim to be running a church, but it doesn't make them legitimate.


The Republican Party of Texas supports the historic concept, established by our nations' founders, of limited civil government jurisdiction under the natural laws of God, and repudiates the humanistic doctrine that the state is sovereign over the affairs of men, the family and the church.

Just another example of the Texas Republicans' emphasis on God and religion, and a subtle dig at secular humanism.


As America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice.

Judeo-Christian principles, eh? How's that first commandment go? "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." How does that 'affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice', or is it only so long as the religion of their choice is one of the Judeo-Christian ones?.

I've covered this mangling of history more thoroughly in a previous entry, Response to an Editorial by Pat Boone. Our country was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, but rather Enlightenment values.


We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. We urge the Legislature to increase the ability of faith-based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations.

Ugh. More mangling of history that I addressed in that previous link, and an ignoble goal of putting more religion into government rather than striving towards secularism. As a side note, a great many people I've talked to personally seem to misunderstand secular as atheistic. It's not. It means neutral on religion. That's the whole point of the separation of church and state. People should be allowed to practice religion as they see fit on their own (within obvious limits, of course - child abuse isn't allowed just because you think God commands it), without government taking a stance one way or the other. If you want laws to be passed that affect everybody, they should have some obvious practical rationale, not just pointing to a holy book.


We urge Congress to sanction any foreign government that persecutes its citizens for their religion.

That one's pretty good, actually.


Addictive Behaviors- We encourage state and federal governments to severely prosecute illegal dealers and manufacturers of addictive substances, including pornography, and/or pedophilia. We urge Congress to discourage import of such substances into our country. Faith based rehabilitation programs should be emphasized. We oppose legalization of illicit and synthetic drugs. We support an effective abstinence-based educational program for children. We oppose any "needle exchange" program. We urge vigorous enforcement of our DUI laws.

So many horrible positions all rolled into one plank.

Least horrible, but still wrong, is their position on pornography. It should be a legitimate business with appropriate regulation and oversight to prevent abuses and ensure safety. This is just one more example of the Texas Republicans trying to impose their personal morals on everyone. (Of course, pedophilia is wrong, but it's very odd to group it with pornography with an and/or, as if they're somehow the same.)

Evidence based rehabilitation programs should be emphasized. If people want religion in their rehabilitation, they can get it on their own time without my tax dollars paying for it.

Drug policy in this country makes no sense. One of the most dangerous recreational drugs is already legal and widely used - alcohol, while far less dangerous drugs like marijuana are illegal. If we're going to take away people's freedom to do what they want to their own bodies, it should at least be based on the relative dangers of the drugs. This all seems to stem from some Puritanical idea that drugs are bad just because. (I also wonder if their desire for severe prosecution of all dealers and manufacturers of addictive substances extends to moonshine runners.)

Abstinence-based sex ed doesn't work, and is a big reasons why Texas has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country (including D.C. - more info). This is especially infuriating given the Republican's extreme opposition to abortion. Shouldn't we be doing everything we can to reduce unplanned pregnancies?

Needle exchange programs just make sense. A comprehensive 2004 study by the World Health Organization found that "There is compelling evidence that increasing the availability and utilization of sterile injecting equipment by IDUs reduces HIV infection substantially," along with, "There is no convincing evidence of any major, unintended negative consequences. Specifically and after almost two decades of extensive research, there is still no persuasive evidence that needle syringe programmes increase the initiation, duration or frequency of illicit drug use or drug injecting," and further, "Needle syringe programmes are cost-effective." So needle exchange programs reduce horrible diseases, don't increase drug use, and are cost effective. What possible reason could there be to oppose them, unless your goal is to punish people for having an addiction?


Conspiracy Theories / Benghazi / Tinfoil Hats

We believe all law-abiding citizens should be free from government surveillance of their electronic communications except in cases directly involving national security, by court order. Except for non-citizens, we further oppose any national ID program, including the Real ID Act and the use of Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) on humans. [emphasis min]

I certainly appreciate the part about being free from surveillance without a court order, but why did they include that language about RFID chips? Is it something to do with the urban legend about the Affordable Care Act requiring RFID chips, or some crazy Mark of the Beast conspiracy theory? It seems like the type of warning you'd get from a crazy street corner preacher.


Smart Meters- We oppose the mandated use of Smart Meters, as well as the use of collected data to reduce freedoms of U.S. citizens. Our opposition is based upon security, property damage, energy inefficiencies, privacy, health issues, and the use of Smart Meters to ration electricity. Texans should be allowed to opt-out of or opt-in to the use of Smart Meters.

I can see maybe security and privacy, but property damage, energy inefficiencies, and health issues? What type of health issues could there possibly be from a smart electric meter? This is another off the wall paranoid plank.


And what current Republican publication would be complete without mentioning Benghazi?

We call for Congress to act as President Obama has dismissed the IRS targeting of specific political groups and individuals, which calls into question the President's and the Department of Justice's commitment to citizens Constitutional rights; and We call for Congress to act on the Benghazi cover up and the failure to protect American Citizens including U.S. military personnel by the Obama Administration; and We call for Congressional investigates into other federal agencies.
Investigate Benghazi- We call upon the United States House of Representatives to appoint a select committee and a special prosecutor in order to subpoena testimony to fully investigate all aspects of the Benghazi debacle, including, but not limited to, the reason Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi; the denied assistance before and during the attack, the accounts of personnel who participated in the defense of the embassy annex, and the apparent attempt by the White House to deceive the American public with a concocted story about a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. We call for bringing those responsible to justice, including jail time.

Yes, the White House screwed up, royally, but there have been plenty of investigations and inquiries into the incident. That the Republicans continue to keep bringing it up seems more like a witch hunt than an honest attempt to make sure nothing like this happens again. (more info - Think Progres - What Everyone Should Know About The Benghazi Attack)


Voting Rights

We support restoring integrity to the voter registration rolls and reducing voter fraud. We support repeal of all Motor Voter laws; re-registering voters every four years; requiring photo ID of all registrants; proof of residency and citizenship, along with voter registration application; retention of the 30-day registration deadline; and requiring that a list of certified deaths be provided to the election administrator in order that the names of deceased voters be removed from the list of registered voters.

I'll be frank - many Republicans have used the threat of voter fraud to disenfranchise the types of voters they don't like. For one thing, voter fraud is a practically non-existent problem (see Mother Jones - UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud). For another, some Republicans have even admitted to the new voter ID laws being attempts to suppress the votes of their opponents (Think Progress - Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Was The Goal Of New Election Laws and Daily Beast - Republicans Admit Voter-ID Laws Are Aimed at Democratic Voters). And even when they're not caught flat out admitting the purpose of these laws, the effects are quite clear (Common Dreams - Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? Only When It's Convenient).


We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.

Of course you do, considering that shenanigans in Texas have kept it as one of the states covered by the law.


We support modifications and strengthening of election laws to ensure ballot integrity and fair elections. We strongly urge the Texas attorney general to litigate the previously passed voter ID legislation. We support increased scrutiny and security in balloting by mail; prohibition of internet voting and any electronic voting lacking a verifiable paper trail; prohibition of mobile voting; prosecution for election fraud with jail sentences; repeal of the unconstitutional "Help America Vote Act"; and assurance that each polling place has a distinctly marked and if possible separate location for Republican and Democratic primary voting.

Aside from the voter suppression issues I discussed above, read that last line. In my opinion, it's bad enough that state funds are going to fund political parties' endorsement of candidates. After all, the parties are private organizations that aren't officially part of the government, but I do recognize that primaries are better than the closed door meetings that parties used to use to pick candidates. But to propose doubling tax payer expense just so your party can meet and vote in a different location than another party is going too far.


Marriage Equality/LGBT Rights

There's similar wording to this every year.

We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman.
  • We support withholding jurisdiction from the Federal Courts in cases involving family law, especially any changes in the definition of marriage.
  • We shall not recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse.
  • We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married.
  • We urge the Legislature to rescind no-fault divorce laws and support Covenant Marriage.

Why are they so against marriage equality? Why do they insist on forcing their hateful version of religion on everybody else?


Here's a straw plank.

We believe religious institutions have the freedom to recognize and perform only those marriages that are consistent with their doctrine.

Who, exactly, is proposing that preachers be forced to perform marriages they don't approve of?


Homosexuality- Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

At least they dropped the language about "We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit," so I guess that's some measure of progress, but then they went and added the plank copied below, which is arguably worse. And of course, this plank is still horribly bigoted. How can people in the 21st century write stuff like this?


Reparative Therapy- We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.

This a treatment which has been discredited by practically every relevant medical organization. Additionally, to quote a recent Newsweek article, "conversion therapy patients are six times more likely than their homosexual peers to report depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide." It's one thing for adults to voluntarily submit themselves to a crank therapy, but it's an entirely different thing for minors to be subjected to this type of mistreatment. Given that the recent laws passed in California and New Jersey were outlawing this treatment for minors, it certainly appears that the language in this plank is an attempt to keep this type of abuse of minors legal.


We support reducing the time, bureaucracy, and cost of adoption. We oppose mandates that deny mothers a choice in selecting a traditional home for their children. We oppose mandatory open adoption. We oppose any government agency to force faith-based adoption or foster care organizations to place children with same-sex couples.

If a couple is deemed fit for adoption, it shouldn't matter if they're a traditional couple or not. I'm sure there are still some left in this state would call interracial couples non-traditional. Should the biological mothers be able to prohibit their offspring from going there?

And once again, notice the special exemptions they want made for religious institutions, that the law wouldn't apply equally to all.


Sanctity of Life / Abortion

Compare these next two planks side by side.

We revere the sanctity of human life and therefore oppose genocide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.
Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered.

So they revere the sanctity of life, but not enough to outlaw the death penalty.

Other than their brave stance on opposing genocide, I don't agree with anything else from those planks. Euthanasia and assisted suicide should be options for the people who choose them. Why force someone to continue living in a state of suffering with no chance of recovery?

Capital punishment has not been demonstrated to be an effective deterrent. According to a 2009 survey of criminologists (Source with other studies), " 87% of the expert criminologists believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates." And considering the amount of people who have been falsely convicted and put on death row (see the Virgina Hughes article, How Many People Are Wrongly Convicted? Researchers Do the Math.), if the death penalty were 'swift and unencumbered', there would be even more innocent people killed by the state.


Consider these next two passages together.

All innocent human life must be respected and safeguarded from conception to natural death; therefore, the unborn, the aged, and the physically or mentally challenged have a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed.
Until our final goal of total constitutional rights for the unborn child is achieved, we support laws that restrict and regulate abortion including, but not limited to:
  1. parental and informed consent;
  2. prohibition of abortion for gender selection;
  3. prohibition of abortion due to the results of genetic diagnosis
  4. licensing, liability, and malpractice insurance for abortionists and abortion facilities;
  5. prohibition of financial kickbacks for abortion referrals;
  6. prohibition of partial birth late-term abortions
  7. the prohibition of the manufacturing and sale of abortifacients (e.g. morning after pill);
  8. new causes of action for so called "wrongful birth" or "wrongful life";
  9. enactment of any other laws which will advance the right to life for unborn children;
  10. health insurance coverage for abortion services and abortifacients under Texas law should be considered supplemental coverage and billed to the beneficiary; and
  11. repeal of judicial bypass.

The language in that first plank about 'from conception' makes it seem like the other plank wants 'total constitutional rights' for a fertilized egg. That's ludicrous. How can you even begin to compare a fertilized egg to the woman who's carrying it?

Many of the bullets are pretty draconian, as well, or using emotionally laden terms. I have a pretty thorough discussion of this issue in the entry, Abortion, including real world examples of justified 'partial birth late-term abortions' and a hypothetical example of a justifiable 'abortion due to the results of genetic diagnosis'. Needless to say, I think Republicans are way too extreme on this issue.


Healthcare, Alternative Medicine, & Woo

First, consider this.

We demand the immediate repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which we believe to be unconstitutional.

But now consider this.

We urge the passage of health care reform which results in more affordable healthcare through a market-based, competitive, and transparent health care system, including tort reform, interstate competition, genuine accountability and oversight.

It sounds like they don't like 'Obamacare', but that if they ever actually read it, they might like the Affordable Care Act, or at least be able to suggest a few changes to make it something they do like. What makes this especially frustrating is that when the Affordable Care Act was being drafted, the Republicans in Congress did practically nothing but obstruct and spread misinformation, rather than try to constructively contribute to the law. (Two entries I've written previously that are somewhat related to this include Universal Health Care and Obamacare Lives (A Discussion of the Individual Mandate).


These next two are related.

We oppose any efforts to mandate that vitamins and other natural supplements be on a prescription-only basis, and we oppose any efforts to remove vitamins and other nutritional supplements from public sale. We support the rights of all adults to their choice of nutritional products and alternative health care choices. [emphasis mine]
We support the right of individuals to make their own dietary decisions. We oppose any laws regarding the production, distribution, or consumption of food. [emphasis mine] Government should not restrict non-genetically engineered seeds.

While I do agree that adults should be able to participate in any risky behavior they choose, I also think manufacturers/vendors are under an obligation to adequately report the risks so that it's an informed decision. Many in the vitamin and supplement market right now are far from honest in the presentation of their products. This is also an Appeal to nature. Natural doesn't mean good or safe.

And that line about opposing 'any laws regarding the production, distribution, or consumption of food' is ludicrous. I kind of like the idea of going to the grocery store and feeling safe buying food, knowing that there are regulations that must be followed and standards that must be met for what's sold.


I've mentioned this one before, but it's so horrible it needs to be called out every time someone makes a claim like this.

All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.

I'm becoming less and less patient with the anti-vax movement, given the deadly results. Personally, I think withholding a vaccination from your child is a form of child abuse (at the very least criminal negligence) and should be punished accordingly. Children should not have to suffer deadly or crippling diseases because of the stupidity of their parents. And given the concept of herd immunity, avoiding vaccines puts others as risk, as well, not just yourself or your own unvaccinated children. Newborns have died because of unrelated idiots who didn't get their vaccinations and became vectors for diseases. Why does this platform promote such a dangerous, irresponsible position?

For more, including links to statistics and heartbreaking examples, read Phil Plait's article, Debunking vaccine myths.


Education

Here's another plank worth calling out again.

Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.

Texas Republicans want to cut funding to education.


American Identity, Patriotism and Loyalty- We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty, which includes the contribution and assimilation of different racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the United States and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism. Students have the right to display patriotic items on school property. Students should have the right to read the Bible on public school property.

I never realized how creepy pledges were until I walked in on my daughter's class reciting the Texas pledge (I didn't grow up here). Hearing a pledge in a context where you're not desensitized reveals it for the propaganda method it is. It's not that I dislike my country, but forced loyalty oaths are for totalitarian governments, not the land of the free.

The last two sentences are also a bit odd, kind of like a plank saying the sky is blue. Is there some widespread movement keeping kids from having little American flags? (Okay, there is something to some people misunderstanding separation of church and state and not allowing students to properly express themselves, but it's mostly isolated incidents, and far less common than the cases going the other way, where teachers and other school employees, i.e. representatives of the state, endorse religion.)


Compare these two planks.

We favor improving the quality of education for all students, including those with special needs. We support a return to the traditional basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and citizenship with sufficient discipline to ensure learning and quality educational assessment.
We strongly oppose Juvenile Daytime Curfews. Additionally, we oppose any official entity from detaining, questioning and/or disciplining our children without the consent of a child's parent.

So, should teachers have 'sufficient discipline to ensure learning', or are Texas Republicans opposed to that 'without the consent of a child's parent'?


Here's another one I'm going to highlight again given my personal interest in evolution.

We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.

It's telling that they call out 'life origins and environmental change' out of all the possible fields of science. The strengths and weaknesses language gives away the game on their true motivation (as if there was really any question). They're really just looking for a way to smuggle creationism and climate pseudoscience into the classroom.


This one's just a short one, but it further highlights their disdain for education.

We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development, and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten.

Early childhood education yields real benefits (see National Education Assocation - Early Childhood Education).


They've modified this next one slightly from two years ago, but it's not much of an improvement.

Knowledge Based Education- We oppose the teaching of values clarification and similar programs that focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. Rather, we encourage the teaching of critical thinking skills, including logic, rhetoric and analytical sciences

Education is all about 'challenging the student's fixed beliefs'. How else do you correct misconceptions and mistaken beliefs.


We oppose use of a national or international core curricula in the State of Texas (i.e. Common Core, CSCOPE, UN Inclusion, etc.) We also oppose the modification of college entrance exams to reflect any national core philosophies. Furthermore, any independent school district that violates state law banning the use of a national core curriculum shall lose all state funding until said curriculum is removed and no longer being utilized in the classroom.

It's not just mandatory use of the national standards that they're opposed to, but even preventing schools from voluntarily using those standards.

CScope made headlines here a year ago, so I actually looked into some of the claims against it, in the entries, CSCOPE Conspiracy?, More on CSCOPE - Promoting Communist China?, and Teach the Controversy! (except when I don't agree with it) - CSCOPE and the Second Amendment. Needless to say, the right wing complaints against the standards were almost completely divorced from reality.


Here's another outlandish plank that I've called out before.

We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing.

Just consider the ignorance of some of the people out there. According to the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators, a quarter of Americans think the sun goes around the earth, and only half of Americans know that electrons are smaller than atoms. Or consider how notorious Americans are for not knowing geography (Washington Post - The less Americans know about Ukraine's location, the more they want U.S. to intervene). Now imagine giving people like that free reign over their children's education with no 'definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing'. We'd have a generation even more ignorant than this one.


We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students and district personnel specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents, including the Bible as their basis. Students and district personnel have the right to display Christian items on school property.

Right, because the problem is not enough religion in schools. When practically every choir recital I've gone to had religious hymns, almost all school board meetings begin with a prayer, teachers are thanking God left and right in their official capacity as teachers, and half the classrooms I walked into for parent teacher conferences had 'One Nation Under God' posters hanging on the wall, I don't think we need to worry about people's freedom to excercise religion being infringed upon.

And just consider that part about including the Bible as the basis for our country's founding documents. The Constitution doesn't mention God once, except for the convention of using 'in the Year of our Lord' for the date. The Declaration (not really our country's founding document) does mention 'Nature's God' and 'the Creator', but those are standard deist phrases, not references to the Bible.


I quoted another plank calling for abstinence only sex ed up above, but here's another one. This really is a harmful position.

We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than the biology of reproduction and abstinence until marriage. We should prohibit entities and their affiliates that have a conflict of interest with our beliefs from conducting sexuality education in public schools and from conducting teacher training. The social aspects of sexuality should be left to the family.


Here's yet another example of mangling history and injecting religion where it doesn't belong. How can you support a party that promotes this type of ignorance?

We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America's legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders' writings.


Economics

All non-military spending should be returned to at least pre-2008 levels.

The U.S. accounts for around 39% of all military spending worldwide (source: Wikipedia), and more than the next 10 countries combined. So why is military spending off limits for budget cuts? And why should all non-military spending be reduced to what it was six years ago?


We recommend that the Congressional retirement system be abolished.

Are they that against the idea of the common man being able to become a representative? If you try to make the compensation for being a representative bad enough, then the only people who would be able to afford taking of a few years of their life to serve in Congress would be the wealthy.


We oppose all bailouts of domestic and foreign government entities, States and all businesses, public and private.

Bailouts, while unpalatable, saved the country from a severe depression. The problem is not with bailouts themselves, but the conditions leading to their necessity. If you really dislike bailouts (and want to avoid depressions), call for tighter regulation of industries.


We support a favorable business climate of low taxes and deregulation to encourage capital investment to ensure retention and creation of jobs in America.

Lower taxes don't create more jobs. Here's an article in Forbes, Tax Cuts Don't Create Jobs, with stats and links to back that up, and another article from Time, Why Lower Corporate Taxes Won't Create More Jobs, with more stats. Given that the U.S. already has some of the lowest taxes among first world nations, I don't see any reason to push for even lower taxes. I've discussed similar issues before in the entry, Response to E-mail: 'Brilliantly Explained', Is Government Spending Out of Control?.


Business and the Economy- We believe that a favorable business climate and strong economy emerges when government is limited by low taxation, sensible regulation, and tort reform. The American private sector powers our economy and is the true creator of jobs. When government, through legislation, executive action, statute or agency, overreaches, we believe it is then our duty to protect the American free market, private sector actors and our economy. Because we believe that competition in the free market is vital to a strong economy and business climate, we stand for the equal representation of all sectors and economic actors in government action including small business owners, farmers, ranchers and the taxpayer. The establishment of a transparent and accountable monetary system is paramount in the pursuit of a strong economy.

See above - lower taxes don't create jobs. Also note the near reverence for the free market (again, not that I think free markets are bad, just that unregulated free markets don't always lead to desirable outcomes for society at large).


Here's another I've called out before, but is so stupid it deserves to be called out again.

Our Founding Fathers warned us of the dangers of allowing central bankers to control our currency because inflation equals taxation without representation. We support the return to the time-tested precious metal standard for the U.S. dollar.

There are very good reasons why no first world countries use the gold standard. To quote an article on About.com, "The stability caused by the gold standard is also the biggest drawback in having one. Exchange rates are not allowed to respond to changing circumstances in countries. A gold standard severely limits the stabilization policies the Federal Reserve can use." The article went on to cite an economist explaining how these limitations of the gold standard lead to higher short-term price instability, 'real output' variability, and even higher unemployment.


Misc

I've mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating.

Any form of desecration of the American Flag is an act of disregard for our nation and its people and penalties should be established for such.

Freedom of speech? Sure, as long as it's speech we agree with. How could anyone think it should be illegal to desecrate a piece of cloth? I don't personally like seeing the flag burned or desecrated myself, but only totalitarian governments outlaw symbolic actions against inanimate objects.


Here's another one I'm bringing up again.

We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling and encourage the repeal of the Texas State Lottery. We oppose dedicating any government revenue from gambling to create or expand any government program.

Talk about a nanny state. They want to do away with the state lottery.


Juvenile justice reforms should continue, including private programs, "boot camps," and trying juveniles as adults when appropriate. We condemn incarcerating juveniles and adults in the same facility.

Juvenile 'boot camps' haven't been demonstrated to have any improvement in recidivism rates over conventional juvenile incarceration. Some studies even found slightly higher recidivism for the boot camps. They don't appear to have any real cost savings over conventional incarceration, either, with some studies finding higher long term costs when all factors are considered. (more info: CrimeSolutions.gov - Juvenile Boot Camps). If they're no better than or even slightly worse than conventional juvenile incarceration, why promote them? Shouldn't we instead look for a new alternative that does better than either of these existing systems?

As far as trying juveniles as adults, the brain isn't really fully developed until after adolescence (see NCBI - The Basics of Brain Development. Why would you try someone with a still immature brain as an adult?


We in the Republican Party of Texas believe in the principals of constitutionally limited government based on federalist principals. To this end we encourage our elected officials at all levels of government to work to reverse the current trend of expanding government and the growing tax and debt burdens this places on we the people...

I get tired of this trope of a growing tax burden. Here's an interesting interactive graphic, Check your US tax rate for 2012--and every year since 1913. Since the '40s, federal income tax rates for most people have stayed about the same. For the wealthiest, they've actually dropped. If it was good enough for The Greatest Generation, or the generation that won the Moon Race, surely we can live with the same taxes now. As I've said before, these right wingers who are continually calling for lower taxes just seem like a bunch of whiners who don't want to pay their fair share to support society. (Also see the entry I linked to above, Response to E-mail: 'Brilliantly Explained', Is Government Spending Out of Control?.)


Where I Actually Agree

These weren't actually the only planks I agreed with, but they are worth pointing out.


These next two are largely the same.

The Republican Party abhors any policies of indefinite detention of US citizens without due process. We urge our government to terminate any practice of detention without due process, including, but not limited to, any enforcement of federal law by the military within the State of Texas, under sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Republican Party abhors any policies of indefinite detention of US citizens without due process. We urge Congress to terminate any practice of detention without due process

Fair enough, but why limit it to just US citizens? If rights are supposed to be inalienable, isn't it just as bad to deny due process to non-citizens? Where's the outrage over Guantanamo?


We support full disclosure of the amounts and sources of any campaign contributions to political candidates, whether contributed by individuals, political action committees, or other entities.

With so many of their other paranoid planks about privacy (like their 'call for repeal of requirements that religious organizations send the government any personal information about their contributors'), it surprised me that they call for this type of transparency in politics. But credit where credit is due, I guess.


Water Shortages-We recommend the Texas Legislature, in coordination with the Texas Water Development Board, immediately appropriate required revenue and authorize sale of revenue bonds to finance, design, and construction of a large desalination facility or facilities using sea water from the Gulf of Mexico and from underground salt water aquifers using leading-edge technologies such as, but not limited to, reverse-osmosis (RO), electro dialysis, and reed-root constructed wetlands, to bring long-term resolution Texas's critical water shortage problem.

Also, to relieve reliance and depletion on fresh water aquifers from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin, Concho Valley, Hill Country, south, southwest, and west Texas, etc., and thereby ensure continued economic stability and growth. These current leading-edge technologies offer feasible capabilities to treat seawater, brackish inland water, sewage, oilfield waste water, etc. to provide new innovative potable water resources. We further recommend that affordability, effectiveness,

The current drought in parts of Texas is dire (see Houston Chronicle - Drought among the worst in Texas in past 500 years, and be sure to browse through the photos). With the climate change that these Texas Republicans refuse to recognize, droughts like this are only going to get more common. Technology can surely help play a part in addressing future water needs of the state. However, it would have been nice to also see some lip service paid to changes in behavior and water usage (such as switching to crops with lower water requirements, Austin American-Statesman - Drought prompts rice farmers to try new crops).

---

Man, what a horrible, horrible platform. And for the most part, I tried to avoid planks I'd called out before, but this review still ended up this long. There's just so much that's wrong with this platform.

I know it's somewhat fashionable to say that you don't like either party, and I purposely classify myself as an independent. But I've read the platforms from the Texas Republicans and Democrats, and while I don't agree with everything in the Democratic Platform, it doesn't come anywhere close to the lunacy and extremism of this Republican Platform. It just boggles my mind that this is the official platform of the majority party in Texas.

Oh well, like I've written before, I'll still try to judge candidates on an individual basis, but with an official platform like this for the party they've chosen to align themselves with, Texas Republicans already have two strikes against them.


Update 2014-07-17: The original version of this post was written before the final platform was released, based on a proposed draft. Now that the final platform has been released, there were a few minor differences, so I cleaned up this entry to reflect that (along with a few minor changes to my commentary). The original version of this entry can still be found here.

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